Charleston mayor calling for relocation of John C. Calhoun statue to local museum
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg is calling for the relocation of the John C. Calhoun statue to a local museum.
During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Tecklenburg announced that he will be sending a resolution to city council calling for the relocation of the statue which is located in Marion Square. Council is expected to vote on the resolution next Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“We are taking this action only after careful consideration of the facts of Mr. Calhoun’s life,” the mayor said.
The mayor also addressed the Heritage Act, a state law which forbids the removal of war related markers in South Carolina.
Tecklenburg said the law does not pertain to the Calhoun statue.
“Well folks, this is not a war memorial,” he said. “By [removing the statue] I believe we bring peace.”
Tecklenburg said he was confident that city council has full authority to order the relocation since the statue belongs to the city and is located on grounds owned by a private party.
The mayor said he would like the statue to be moved to a local museum or a higher education learning facility where it can be placed in full historical context, and be preserved and protected.
The announcement comes on the fifth anniversary of the Emanuel AME tragedy which took the lives of nine people. During the press conference, Tecklenburg read aloud the names of the victims and spoke about the tragedy.
“But in the days that followed, thanks to amazing grace and the deep faith of the families of the Emanuel Nine and the extraordinary act of forgiveness that so moved the world, the miracle of grace came upon our city, and set us on the difficult but essential road to racial justice and conciliation,” he said.
Hours after the mayor’s announcement, protesters spray pained and put signs at the base of the statue.
Officials with the Charleston Police Department say arrests were made, and the city closed Marion Square for the remainder of the day.
You can watch the mayor’s full press conference on his announcement on the statue above or click here.
City leaders said they first had to do some research to try and figure out who owned the statue.
“First the legal department had to do all the research back to the 1800s first to determine who owned it,” Councilman William Dudley Gregorie said. “We discern that the city of Charleston owns it and it’s not a war statue. And if we own it then we have the prerogative to relocate it.”
Many of the people who attended the news conference said the statue is a painful reminder to African Americans.
Michael B. Moore, the former president and CEO of International African American Museum, said he agrees with taking the statue down.
"We're saying that the confederacy and all that it stood for, of dehumanizing people of African descent, of enslaving them, we're saying that that's okay and the reality is that that's not okay," Moore said.
James Bessenger, the former SC Secessionist Party president, said the statue shouldn't come down because it is a part of history and also a reminder of what we shouldn't do.
“I don’t see any problem with having monuments and statues to people who are questionable in history. It reminds us of our history,” Bessenger said.
Protesters at Marion Square called for the destruction of the statue. Some of them climbed the monument and vandalized it.
CofC graduate, Vanity Deterville, says she doesn't want to see the statue in a museum.
“This is energy that should not be transferred, this is energy that should be destroyed because this energy has embodied the very violence that has led to the death of my ancestors and many other ancestors,” Deterville said.”This is the embodiment of racist policies. We don’t need it transferred. We need this energy destroyed.”
City leaders also say that this is just the first step and they have a lot of serious work to do.
“This is just the start, I think we have a lot of work to get beyond this,” councilman Jason Sakran said.” It’s a lot of the systemic issues we have.”
The mayor’s announcement comes the day after civil rights groups and some state lawmakers gathered at the base of the Calhoun monument to call for its immediate removal. Members of the National Action Network and the Charleston chapter of the NAACP want the statue relocated to stand over Calhoun’s gravesite at St. Philip’s Church in Charleston or in a museum.
“The time has come to take down the monuments to honor the evil that was done in the name of Charleston,” the Rev. Nelson Rivers III said at that news conference.
Charleston city spokesman Jack O’Toole said Tecklenburg, Charleston City Council and city legal staff members “have been working on this issue for some time.”
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard said he wrote a letter to Tecklenburg Tuesday asking for his help in taking down the statue.
“There is no room to say that you want to do something other than bring down that statue. There’s no room for compromise," Gilliard said. “Just bring that statue down. It’s the right thing to do.”
Carl Beckmann, the chairman of the board of The Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards, and who owns Marion Square, says in his opinion, "We’re of the mindset you can’t erase history and can’t change history.”
Calhoun, born in 1782 in Abbeville, South Carolina, was a statesman, serving in a variety of roles including U.S. senator from South Carolina, a U.S. secretary of state, secretary of war and the nation's seventh vice president. He died in 1850, 11 years before the start of the Civil War.
Calhoun’s support of slavery has prompted calls for the statue’s removal from Marion Square for years.
Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.